Breaking the siege: 'Women leaders' to 'leaders'

Are processes from recruitment to leadership fair for women and men in business? What are the strategies that need to be implemented to ensure equality?

While discussing writing about subjects 'We can't talk about at work', I realised it was time to share with our readers what I know about the problems I see, and what I know (as I research it every day) about development.

I could not postpone writing on this subject while building my career at the very centre of the quadrilateral of 'woman', 'young person', 'leader' and 'entrepreneur'. There are only a handful of people around me who are ambitious enough to be young, women, leader and/or entrepreneurs in the business world. I see the same determination, excitement and perseverance in the eyes of people in these positions, if it is a fair positioning. Is it because of the difficulties brought about by external factors that the number of these people seems so low to me, or is it because I see the number of these people numerically 'less' than it should be because two acrobats cannot dance on the same rope? Or is it because the majority of the tables I sit at are under siege by men? Or is there gender equality in business life, but it is not visible enough because of the psychological impositions and central influences around us? I will answer these questions in this article.

Egalitarianism in human resources

Let's start questioning gender equality and justice by analysing a person's first step in starting a job. When starting a job, following the interview process, people are offered a job in line with their skills, education, experience, and the wage and rights policies of the employer. In this process, the most accurate person is determined among dozens of candidates and is selected for that job. However, unfortunately, not everything is so bright. According to the Gender Equality in the Workplace Survey 2022 prepared by PWC and Peryön,

  • Looking at the human resources processes in general, 65% of female respondents and 85% of male respondents found the processes equal/fair. When we look at the average data, we see that male respondents think that the processes are fairer. As for detailed breakdowns;  
  • While the rate of female respondents who think that the hiring process is equal/fair is 73%, this rate is 87% among male respondents.
  • While 60% of female respondents think that a transparent and gender-equal wages policy is followed in their company, this number rises to 88% among male respondents. While 74% of female respondents think that the performance evaluation process is equal and fair, 93% of male respondents think so.
  • While the rate of female respondents who think that promotions and wage increases are carried out equally/fairly is 64%, this rate is 88% for male respondents.
  • 69% of female respondents and 87% of male respondents think that their companies offer equal/fair development opportunities that will prepare them for their future and provide career progression.

Why might women feel that the processes are less fair than men? This problem arises due to a lack of transparent wage policies, the fact that people doing similar work are known to receive different wages, operational gaps due to the lack of centralised recruitment, the lack of concrete information about the interview process, and the fact that performance metrics are based on vague criteria. Even though these are a large part of the equation and can be taken as a guide in the solution process, the epsilon, which we do not talk about, is a part of the equation and its weight cannot be underestimated. In this equation, epsilon, which we will see as the embodiment of prejudice, can help explain this situation in detail.

Unconscious prejudice in business life

Unconscious prejudice is defined as socially stereotyped judgements about certain groups of people that individuals form without conscious awareness. Due to its intrinsic nature, defining, teaching about and reforming unconscious prejudice is seen as one of the greatest challenges facing humanity. The primary problem caused by unconscious prejudice arises from the characteristics of the other person, regardless of the person's ability, education, or intelligence, and creates injustice. If we look at the statistics, it is seen that 56% of the participants in the research stated that they were exposed to unconscious bias in at least one of the human resources processes, and this rate was 60% for female participants and 42% for male participants. A detailed look at the processes reveals that the rate of unconscious bias is higher for female respondents than for male respondents.

Is equality achieved when it comes to leadership?

In 2022, only 8.8 per cent of all Fortune 500 companies will have a female CEO. This data shows that nearly 91 per cent of Fortune 500 CEOs are men. Only 35 per cent of people in senior management positions are women. This is due to reasons other than unconscious prejudices and the effects of recruitment processes.

McKinsey's research shows that the two biggest challenges holding women back from leadership positions are that women are held to higher standards and that many organisations are not 'ready' to hire women for senior executive positions. However, other challenges include family responsibilities not leaving enough time to run a large company, women not having access to the same types of networks as men, and women being less likely to ask for promotions and raises. Even today, the fact that family care is still seen as the sole responsibility of women, the fact that environments that exclude women, such as 'old boys clubs', can easily form due to the ratio of men to women in the business world, and the studies reporting that women are seen as patronising when they behave confidently can be useful in making sense of this situation.

In fact, it is possible to describe this problem in three aspects: the policies of companies, the place of business life in the individual's life, and social norms. I think that following the solutions of company policies, the behaviour of individuals and then social norms will be transformed.

Steps for structural inclusion to address inequality

Companies being inclusive and pushing for relevant policies is a primary step in the solution process. Korn Ferry, a global organisational consulting firm, argues that the implementation of a four-part solution can mechanise the path to equality.

  • Behavioural inclusion: Individuals can achieve inclusion by recognising long-standing unconscious bias and working to mitigate it. In this step, the company argues that education can help. Here, it emphasises that noticing and warning against masculine language, derogatory discourse on ethnicities or age-based demeaning expressions that are commonly used in daily life, and explaining the impact of these expressions can create behavioural transformation in the organisation.
  • Structural inclusion: Organisations can be inclusive by re-examining and reshaping their talent processes to ensure they are fair and equitable for the entire employee population. They can drive transformation through their ethos and code of ethics, and by developing equitable policies and practices in hiring, assessment, promotion and rewards. The impact of recognising and correcting structural failures within the organisation can be substantial.
  • Inclusive leadership: Inclusive leaders are defined as those who empower team members to take risks, manage their own development, and bring their authentic selves to work. Unlike companies that provide leadership with authority, inclusive leaders work in a more neutral and result-orientated way, and it is observed that success and progress are achieved, which leads to measurable judgements within the company. 
  • Lasting change: Managers can help organisations become inclusive by ensuring that changes persist over time. This requires actively engaging, recognising, testing systems and ensuring that the person at the top of the company takes concrete steps. This is the only way for the rest of the teams to be aware of this.

As I have seen in the reports, research and solution proposals from different sources, despite the progress, there is still a long way to go both in the world and in Turkey, from a statistical perspective. Gradual transition to new corporate cultures and structures, the transformation of systems, and women not seeing themselves as lesser are the first steps of the solution process. 

Finally, I would like to share a quote from the book Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, former COO of Meta, to inspire women leaders and leader candidates: 

"In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders."

Hikâyeyi paylaşmak için:


Okuma listesine ekle




gender equality

Gender Equality



Aposto BusinessAposto Business



Breaking the siege: 'Women leaders' to 'leaders'

Are processes from recruitment to leadership fair for women and men in business? What are the strategies that need to be implemented to ensure equality?

09 Oca 2023


Aposto Business

The best articles on business at Aposto, curated by our editors. Topics include micro-mobility, future of work, energy, green economy, consumer products, marketing and more.